In the summer of 1999, the incidence of
Salmonella entericaserotype Infantis infections in Alberta rose dramatically. Subsequent laboratory and epidemiological investigations established that an outbreak of human disease caused by this organism was occurring across Canada and was associated with pet treats for dogs produced from processed pig ears. Laboratory investigations using phage typing and pulsed-field gel electrophoresis (PFGE) established that isolates of Salmonellaserotype Infantis from pig ear pet treats and humans exposed to pig ear pet treats comprised a well-defined subset of all isolates analyzed. Of the 53 subtypes of Salmonellaserotype Infantis obtained around the time of the outbreak as defined by PFGE and phage typing, only 6 subtypes were associated with both human infection and isolation from pig ears. Together with information from epidemiological studies, these investigations established pig ear pet treats as the cause of the Salmonellaserotype Infantis outbreak. The results are consistent with a model in which contaminated pig ear pet treats constitute a long-term, continuing vehicle for infection of the human population rather than causing temporally delimited point-source outbreaks. During the course of this outbreak, several other Salmonellaserotypes were also isolated from pet treats, suggesting these products may be an important source of enteric infection in both humans and dogs. Though isolates of Salmonellaserotypes other than Salmonellaserotype Infantis from pet treats were also subjected to PFGE and phage typing, no link with human disease could be definitively established, and the contribution of pig ear pet treats to human disease remains unclear. Elimination of bacterial contamination from pet treats is required to reduce the risk of infection from these products.